Puneet Varma

Ground Kontrol

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Established  1999
City  Portland, Oregon
State  OR
Street address  511 NW Couch St
County  Multnomah
Postal/ZIP code  97209
Ground Kontrol

Ground Kontrol is a video game arcade and bar in Portland, Oregon, United States. Recognized as one of the best arcades in the US, it is known for preserving games from the Golden Age of Video Arcade Games. It also serves as a venue for DJs and live music. Also of note is its collection of 28 pinball tables.


Notable events

A high score competition was held jointly at Ground Kontrol, Aftershock RetroGames Arcade in Madison, Wisconsin and the Houston Area Arcade Group Expo in Houston, Texas in June 2004. Twin Galaxies maintained the results of the competitions for world record consideration. Portland area resident Brandon Erickson also trained and attempted to achieve a record breaking high-score on Star Wars at Ground Kontrol in the spring of 2005.

"Slugfest" is a fighting game tournament sponsored by and held at Ground Kontrol featuring a rotating selection of fighting games in a head-to-head elimination tournament.

On September 2, 2008, Ground Kontrol hosted a launch party for Rock Band 2 in conjunction with Liquid Development and Someday Lounge, a venue also located in Portland's Old Town district. Attended by developers from Harmonix Music Systems, it provided a preview of the game ten days in advance of its official release.

On September 8, 2009, The Beatles:Rock Band was made available one day prior to the official launch in time for a special Beatles centric Rock Band Tuesday.

The second annual Portland Pinbrawl pinball tournament was held at Ground Kontrol on April 18, 2010. Contestant Jeff Gagnon won the tournament, with 2009's winner Cayle George placing 5th. The number two ranked player in the US, Keith Elwin, finished 9th overall.

The third annual Portland Pinbrawl pinball tournament was held at Ground Kontrol on April 17, 2011.

In 2010, Ground Kontrol was the winner of three arcades competing in Stride gum's "Save the Arcades 2" contest. The owners have used the $25,000 prize to help fund a full remodeling of the arcade and to buy more games.


On December 1, 2010, Ground Kontrol moved to a temporary location at 32 NW 5th Ave, and then to a second temporary location at 10 NW 5th Ave on December 10. The interior at the original location was stripped to the studs so that a remodel could take place. During the renovation, a kitchen and new seating were added, the restrooms were moved and the decor took on a Tron-esque vibe.

Local Portland firm Jessica Helgerson Interior Design worked with the owners of Ground Kontrol to design the revised interior space. Custom lighting systems featuring heavy use of LEDs and fiber optics were designed and constructed and added to the remodel. The new bathrooms feature Pac-Man tilework and translucent, backlit counter tops. Combined with hanging lamps in polyhedral shapes and fiber optic cable highlighting the edges of the interior arches a TRON inspired interior was realized.

Jessica Helgerson was presented with a 2011 Merit Award for the Ground Kontrol bathroom design by Interior Design magazine.

Music Selection

A sound system inside Ground Kontrol is used for background music. In the evening, local and visiting DJ's play different types of music varying by the day of the week. The sound system and stage is utilized for Rock Band Tuesdays which also serves to provide the music for that evening.

  • Monday "Service Industrial Night", Industrial Music
  • Tuesday "Rock Band Tuesdays", Various
  • Wednesday "TRONix", Electronic Music
  • Thursday "Second Variety", punk rock/rock/garage
  • Friday "Journeys by DJ", hip-hop, electro, dub, dance and more
  • Saturday "Reaganomix" 80s new wave music, pop and electro
  • Sunday "Black Sunday", Heavy Metal Music
  • Recognition

    Ground Kontrol was recognized in the "Best of the City" list for 2008 in Portland Monthly Magazine for Rock Band Tuesdays. In July, 2010, Sunset Magazine included Ground Kontrol in the "Best of Portland: Hotels, Dining, and Attractions 2010" publication calling it the "Old Hot Spot" in Portland's Chinatown. The San Francisco Chronicle listed Ground Kontrol as one of "Five places to revisit the '80s".


    Since opening in 1999, Ground Kontrol has undergone several changes. The arcade was originally created and opened by Betty Farrier, and Kneel Cohn of the bands Warshow Angels and The Dead Stars On Hollywood. In March 2003 it came under new ownership by Timewarp Incorporated. Also of note is the September 2004 move to a new location and the addition of a beer and wine bar in May 2005. Guitar Hero nights began in the summer of 2007 and switched to Rock Band on November 20, 2007, that game's release date. On December 11, 2011, Ground Kontrol's announced "Ground Kontrol Now Serving Mixed Drinks: Starting at 5PM tonight, Ground Kontrol is officially a full-service bar."

    In the 2005 film The Comedians of Comedy, Brian Posehn visits Ground Kontrol's original location on SW 12th Ave in Portland, OR.

    The 2006 documentary film "High Score" features an interview with co-owner Anthony Ramos at Ground Kontrol.


    Ground Kontrol Wikipedia

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